If you include the “not very good” numbered albums, Teens of Style would be Car Seat Headrest‘s 12th record. In just the span of five years, the 23 year old Will Toledo (also a moniker) dished out 11 records, some of them containing songs longer than 10 minutes. Many of the songs were born from recording sessions Toledo had in his parent’s car, parked next to secluded churches to escape the earshot of others. His debut for Matador Records is a compilation featuring ten revisited (and one new one) Car Seat Headrest songs, reworked and re-recorded with his Spring 2015 tour live band, Andrew Katz on drums and Jacob Bloom on bass (now replaced by Ethan Ives).
Serving as a “best-of” for his earlier work, Teens of Style is not just for the new fans, as the Car Seat Headrest believers will definitely appreciate the minimal re-work of these songs. Obvious influences include the Beach Boys, Guided By Voices, and Daniel Johnston, but Toledo frequently professes his obsession with Michael Gira/Swans often on his (very active) Tumblr page.
Much of these songs were written during college, but some even date back to high school when he made music under his “Nervous Young Men” moniker. Love, fame, anxiety, and getting old are the thematic pillars for the lo-fi pop wunderkind. While these group of songs aren’t his most personal, there’s still a lot of emotion and heft in these group of songs. “Maud Gone” haunts with a nagging pearly synth riff that oh so catchy, something that Phil Spector would’ve wished he had his fingerprints on. The re-worked version of “Something Soon” is much more subdued than the original (sans the fuzz), but still has the same gritty tension, keeping that exploding outro of “lets burn this house down.” “No Passion” was the song that was re-worked the most, shedding memorable juvenile lines like “Leslie Nelson is dead and I don’t care,” and adding existential meanderings like “In the morning I’m a corpse, draft my emails to the corporation / ‘you’re saving my life everyday, god bless you'” to reflect his post-grad ideals.
Amidst the youth-y angst, Toledo drop in his sharp humor like with the line “God is a scientist he’s just found out about us / he’s published a study but he don’t know much about us” on “Strangers.” Stemming from a demo titled “Fuck Merge Records,” Toledo creates a lyrical labyrinth on “Times To Die,” expressing his doubts in fame, scenes and rewritten to stick in a shout out to Matador co-founder, Chris Lombardi, all while weaving between religious and music industry rituals (“hey man we listened to your demos / before they fed him to their devils”).
While Teens of Style isn’t a “definitive” guide to Car Seat Headrest, its a nice gateway to the vast and plentiful work of Will Toledo, at the same time, caters to existing fans with refreshed tunes. If you’re already a fan, you don’t need me to tell you, but new fans, take my advice, dig into his Bandcamp.
Frosted Flakes with granola of choice and crumbled up Poptart of choice.